Tag Archives: privilege

Lent 2017, day 45

lenten-reflections-on-the-confession-of-belhar“The mind of Christ joins us to Belhar’s great themes, struggling toward visible unity and reconciliation as we stand by the suffering. Many of us have great privilege, thanks to the color of our skin, the families of our birth, the value of our education, and the esteem of our professions. Others of us have less privilege, and face challenges the more privileged can only imagine. Still, nearly all of us have some privilege in some given context.

“No matter our privilege, the gospel calls us to use our power to follow Jesus Christ. He gave up his power in order to serve, so that one day every knee should bend and every tongue confess that he is Lord.

“What does this look like in your world?”
Charles B. Hardwick
Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar

This Lenten season I am using a new resource to explore the Belhar Confession: Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar, edited by Kerri N. Allen and Donald K. McKim. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in which I serve as a teaching elder (pastor), added the Confession of Belhar to our Book of Confessions in 2016. This confession came from the Dutch Reformed Mission Church during its historic struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

See you along the Trail.


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All people have voices

On 11 March 2016, I spoke about the work of advocacy at the orientation for the Presbyterians attending the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. I was asked to post a portion of my remarks and did so on the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations blog. I reprint the words here with the permission of the blog editor (who happens to be me).

All people have voices.
The task of advocacy has nothing to do with giving voice to the voiceless, because
all people have voices.
Some people have voices we choose not to hear.
Some people have voices we ignore.
Some people have voices we force to the margins.
Some people have voices we oppress, repress, suppress.
Some people have voices we have silenced, sometimes for a long time, but
all people have voices.

The work of advocacy leads us
to uncover the voices of our sisters and brothers whose voices we ignore, drive to the margins, suppress, or silence
to hear the voices of our sisters and brothers
to listen, truly listen, passionately listen to the voices of our sisters and brothers
to heed the voices of our sisters and brothers
and then to work with our sisters and brothers whose voices we ignore, drive to the margins, suppress, or silence
to amplify the voices of our sisters and brothers
to bring the voices of our sisters and brothers to the halls of privilege and the tables of power
to invite and call and challenge all people, particularly privileged, powerful people, to hear the voices of our sisters and brothers
to demand that all people, particularly privileged, powerful people, listen, truly listen, passionately listen to our sisters and brothers whose voices we ignore, drive to the margins, suppress, or silence because
all people have voices.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Human Rights, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations

The work ain’t done in me

I was there. I was in the auditorium at Montreat Conference Center for an amazing, challenging, inspiring event: Dr. King’s Unfinished Agenda.

I was there when we remembered the nine members of the Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church killed by a stranger they had welcomed in the name of Christ. One by one an image of each precious child of God appeared on the screen and we were invited to call their names.

Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd. Say her name.
Susie Jackson. Say her name.
Ethel Lee Lance. Say her name.
The Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor. Say his name.
The Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Say his name.
Tywanza Sanders. Say her name.
The Rev. Daniel Simmons. Say his name.
The Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Say her name.
Myra Thompson. Say her name.

I was there in the tender silence after the names had been read. A tender silence that lasted only a moment  I saw someone, a white man, stand. I heard him say something loudly. I did not know who, I was too far away. I did not hear precisely what he said, I attribute that to poor acoustics and my ears being older than I am often willing to admit. I saw and heard but did not know who this was and what this intrusion was.

Now, thanks to the Rev. T. Denise Anderson, I know. She heard. She saw. And in a powerful reflection, she names the speaker and what was said. And I am appalled at what happened. And I am appalled I made no effort to learn what happened and respond.

A long-time social justice activist, Ed Loring, stood and called the name of the person who opened fire upon those who welcomed him into Mother Emmanuel on June 17, 2015. As the Rev. Anderson notes, I have no idea what point he may have been trying to make. That does not matter.

This was a moment to grieve and remember the people who died. Nothing less. And nothing more. It was completely inappropriate and offensive to name anyone else; it was certainly not the moment, not the place to name someone who targeted the people because of the color of their skin. There can be no defense for the outburst.

Perhaps in another setting, where the context was set differently, it might have been appropriate to include this name. Perhaps. People who commit mass murder are sometimes motivated by a desire for publicity; remembering their names feeds that desire. And while individuals are responsible for their actions, the shooting at Mother Emmanuel was fueled by an ideology of white supremacy that has been insufficiently challenged by those, like me, who benefit the most. Hold the person accountable to be sure. But hold the system accountable. And hold those of us who have allowed the system to remain accountable. With that contextual understanding and interpretation, it might be appropriate to include this name. It might.

But in this worship space, where we remembered and named those who died, this act, rooted in privilege, was an affront. In this sacred moment, where we remembered and named those who died, these words, rooted in privilege, were wrong.

I was there. I heard someone, I heard something. And I failed to do anything more. And that reminds me, as the Rev. Anderson writes, “The work surely ain’t done. Surely, it ain’t.”

It surely ain’t. In our society, in our church, the work ain’t done.

In me, the work ain’t done.

God grant me grace to join the work more fully and effectively.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Beyond tolerance

ToleranceThe United Nations has designated today as the International Day for Tolerance.

This action followed on the United Nations Year for Tolerance, 1995, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 at the initiative of UNESCO , as outlined in the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance and Follow-up Plan of Action for the Year.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls “all people and governments to actively combat fear, hatred and extremism with dialogue, understanding and mutual respect.”

Tolerance is good.

Tolerance is important.

Dialogue, understanding and mutual respect are good and important.

But they are all starting points as we seek to honor and welcome one another as God’s children, live together as the human family, learn from one another, dismantle privilege and systems of oppression, build liveable communities of co-equality, and care for all creation, including the human creature.

May this day be a time to renew our efforts.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, United Nations

No turning back

A friend’s post on Facebook today reminds me of the power of racism and of my need to respond.

Describing an experience from earlier today, my friend writes:

A bunch of people in a car just tried to run me off the road while calling me racial slurs and pulling their eyelids at me.

Horrifying. Horrible. Scary. Despicable. Stupidity. All the words shared by my friend’s friends apply.

Other words do as well.

Bigotry. Racism. A call to action.

In particular, people, such as me, who are part of the dominant culture, need to act:

  • To speak when bigotry and hatred rear their heads.
  • To challenge stereotypes in print, on video and wherever they appear.
  • To confront our friends, our families, ourselves when we use or accept stereotypes.
  • To learn the histories and current realities of our brothers and sisters. To learn how those histories shape current realities of our brothers and sisters. And how they shape the current reality of the dominant culture.
  • To take the responsibility to name racism for what it is.
  • To study systems of privilege to understand how they work and how they benefit us and how they can be resisted and dismantled and remade.
  • To consider where we live, where we go to school, how we use our money, who are the professionals who provide services to us, who owns the businesses we support.
  • To remain open to new understandings, new commitments, new challenges, new responsibilities.
  • To recognize that the commitment to seek racial justice lasts a lifetime.

That’s a partial list. Put together quickly. At a moment when my heart aches for a friend. I will revisit it. Amend it. Add to it.

The journey goes on. The struggle continues. There is no turning back.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Friends

SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge Day 2

snap_logoFive emerging random observations that need further reflection after two days:

1. I have had a number of conversation online and in person about the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge. I think that is part of the point. A big part of the point. Friends and colleagues have affirmed the challenge and raised serious questions about the challenge. We also talk about hunger and poverty and what we can do to end them. We need to have those conversations more deliberately and to act on the ideas we have.

2. My colleague J. Herbert Nelson, director of the Presbyterian Washington Office notes that:

We engage the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge as Presbyterians to claim the biblical truth that God has given us enough. Our waste and greed is the source of scarcity for many in our nation and world.

I agree with that. But I also know that I need to do a better job – when I cut my waste and my usage – of directing those resources to help others and challenge the existing system. I have work to do.

3. Over these first two days, I have found it easier to avoid overeating by focusing on the amount I have to spend and the reality of my brothers and sisters who face even greater challenges daily than I do when I focus on the number of calories I am eating. Not sure what that means but I do need to ponder how it might into future actions and self-care.

4. I sent emails to my Representative and Senators today telling them that I am on the challenge and asking what they are doing and what more they plan to do to end poverty and hunger. However they respond, I plan to ask further questions.

5. Three ideas are emerging about follow up actions. One is to decrease my use of meat and eat lighter for the sake of the planet and to share the enough that God has given. I ordered a vegetarian cookbook a few moments ago. A second is to identify an amount to spend each week and stick to that amount. The third is to become more creative in my food purchase – to use farmers’ markets and locally grown foods. Given where I am starting on that one, it won’t be hard to make progress.

What do you think? Whether you are on the challenge or not, what do you think?

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Food, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge: the menu

snap_logoThat’s right. The menu. One menu for the seven days.

Two major factors contribute to this. First, I am not terribly creative in the kitchen. Second, it made shopping easier.

That said, here is the menu:


  • One egg
  • Three slices of turkey bacon
  • An English muffin (for 6 days – a decision lies ahead on Saturday)


  • Two peanut butter sandwiches


  • About three ounces of ground turkey (one 20 ounce package divided into seven servings)
  • 1/2 cup of black beans
  • One slice of American cheese
  • 2/3 of a cup of low sodium spicy V-8

That will leave me five eggs and 9 slices of cheese to add over the week.

Water will be the beverage – beyond the V-8

This is not a balanced diet. I know that. I recognize many of the issues with it.

The amount of money to spend imposes limits, but I could also consider nutritional factors more carefully. That I do not have to do so for a week is yet another privilege.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Food, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)